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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Huckabee routs McCain, but.....

Everyone's atwitter over Huckabee routing McCain in the Kansas Caucus. 60% to 24% sounds overwhelming, but look beneath that.

11,627 caucusers for Huckabee, 4,587 for McCain. That's it.

I would wager there's a single church in Kansas with a membership of 11,600.

(That's all McCain could get out in his debut frontrunner primary?)

Picture of the Day - 2

Eating the local cuisine, a campaign standard.

(Barack Obama sits down to eat a bowl of gumbo at Dooky Chase's Restaurant Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008, in New Orleans.(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer))

Also: Today's caucuses and primary are all about expectations. If Clinton can post anything, it'll give her a huge boost.

And, if it matters, Obama is up a tiny +2 delegates in the AP's Super Tuesday count. 91 still to be awarded.

Pakistan's ceasefire with Bhutto's killer

(LongWarJournal/ATimes) The Pakistani government has signed a ceasefire in South Waziristan which includes the Taleban commander Baitullah Mehsud who is widely blamed for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The ATimes piece claims that Baitullah Mehsud has been "isolated" and that Afghanis have been brought in to command the region signaling a shift in attacks from Pakistan back to Afghanistan. (The implication being that the Pakistanis will leave the Taleban alone so long as they attack Afghanistan and not them?)

I don't really know enough to say what this ceasefire means, but it seems significant.


The big news of the day would be the return of the Sunni IAF to the Maliki government, but we don't really know if that's happening or not.

There's a 2:54 AM Reuters story "Sunnis Agree to Rejoin Government," but there's also a 6AM AFP story carrying a statement from the IAF spokesman "Sunni bloc says it still negotiating return to Iraq government." (The negotiations are close?)

Two interesting articles on the US backed Sunni militias.

(McClatchy) In Diyala, the local Sunni support has gone on strike until the local Shiite police chief is removed and the local police force removes Shiite death squad members and takes in more Sunnis.

(AP) In Mosul, where the Iraqi government is now beginning its "final" showdown with Al Qaeda, there are no US backed Sunni militias.
There are approximately eight Awakening Councils around Qarraya, a predominantly Sunni Arab city about 45 miles south of Mosul. But the rest of the province is so mixed that — if the U.S. military were to support one group — it could upset a perceived balance of power and lead to fighting, Simmering said.

The main friction could be caused by the Kurds and their peshmerga fighting force, believed to have more than 60,000 members, and whose semi-autonomous region borders Nineveh.

"The Kurds are expansionists and they would very much like to annex Mosul and parts of Nineveh to the Kurdistan regional authority," Cole said. "There is severe tension between the peshmerga and the Sunni Arabs — and Mosul is something like 80 percent Sunni Arab."

(AP) Five American soldiers were killed in two roadside bombings. 4 in Baghdad, 1 around Kirkuk.

(AP) 31 Shiites arrested, 15 in Kerbala, 16 in Sadrist Nasiriyah. (The US is rounding up as many Shia as it can before Sadr's ceasefire ends in late Feb.)


(Reuters) The UN human rights chief says that the now admitted US waterboarding is clearly torture and should be prosecuted under the U.N. Convention against Torture. (She's even talking "universal jurisdiction" citing Pinochet.)

(Reuters) The Lebanese vote was delayed for the 14th time. (There's been no head of state since November.)

And, (Haaretz) The Palestinian PM says there will be no peace accord with Israel in 2008. (Notice that all of his complaints regard the West Bank, no mention of Gaza. The "recognized" Fatah over Hamas, right?)

Obama's drug use gets a story in the NYTimes

The NYTimes does a decent length article on Obama's drug use. The broad analysis is that there wasn't that much, but still, the Clinton campaign can't be unhappy this is getting a treatment.

Picture of the Day

McCain and Lieberman sit together at the Feb. 7 National Prayer Breakfast where Bush spoke.

(For those of you who care, Joe Lieberman has been stripped of his superdelegate vote by the Democratic Party.)

(Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Political bits

Caucuses in Washington and Nebraska and a primary in Louisiana tomorrow. (No results til late.) Maine caucus on Sunday ends 6PM.

From the Froomkin piece about Bush at CPAC.
Bush with greeted with near ecstatic thrill. It was hard to imagine that the 1,200 or more folks crammed into the room had been up for hours staking out seats for the 7:15 a.m. speech -- because they spent so little time sitting.

"There were cheers when an aide placed the presidential seal on the podium. Cheers when the binder holding the president's speech was put in place. And chants of 'Four more years!' when Sen. Mitch McConnell introduced Bush..."

(Politico) The NRCC scandal keeps sounding worse and worse, and the guy responsible for the fraud "was also affiliated with dozens of other Republican campaigns and leadership political action committees, some of which have already begun their own internal audits. (Dozens!!!)

(SouthernPolitics) Unsurprisingly, Obama +15 in Virginia. (SUSA) Obama +20. (This one's going to be about expectations, not winning.)

(WSJBlog) The Clinton campaign demands an apology after David Schuster says the campaign is "pimping out" Chelsea. (I don't think he meant it like that, but, for Chris Matthews alone, MSNBC owes Hillary Clinton innumerable apologies.)

(Politico) The DNC is already preparing to "define" John McCain.

(Politico) McCain has hired a PR firm to battle the right wing radio gods. "Shirley & Banister... have been helping McCain for a few weeks now placing surrogates on TV and in news stories." (That's how news gets made.)

And, one thing that's been lost in the Clinton call for weekly debates is that for each debate the candidates lose at least one day on the trail in preparation.

Polling gainst McCain

I think that trying to project November from here is pretty foolish, but there seems to be a growing body of recent polls showing that Obama polls better against McCain.

Just throwing it out for discussion.

Picture of the Day

Bush spoke at CPAC this morning....

"When the president walked on stage, they clapped and chanted "Four more years! Four more years!" (AP)

(AP) "Bush reached his lowest approval rating in The Associated Press-Ipsos poll on Friday as only 30 percent said they like the job he is doing.... 61 percent of Republicans gave Bush positive reviews..."

(President Bush is applauded at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Friday, Feb. 8, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf))

Musharraf losing hold

I don't know how it works there or if these ex-Generals are tied to another party, but usually when a group of ex generals speak, it is to give voice to officers still serving.
A group of retired Pakistani generals and admirals is stepping up its unprecedented campaign against President Pervez Musharraf, even joining in a public protest to demand that the former military chief resign.

Also, (AP) "A wave of defections from Pakistan's ruling party ahead of parliamentary elections is compounding the woes of Pervez Musharraf at a time of rampant Islamic militancy, soaring food prices and anger over the U.S.-backed president's maneuvering to prolong his eight years in power."

(The election is Feb 18, and many are now predicting Bhutto's party will win. (That, of course, assumes fair elections.))

Obama winks a little dirty

After Clinton's self loan to her campaign,
Asked whether he would call on the Clintons to release their tax returns, Obama stopped short of saying they should.

"I'll just say that I've released my tax returns. That's been a policy I've maintained consistently. I think the American people deserve to know where you get your income from. But I'll leave it up to you guys to chase it down," he told reporters on the flight to Omaha, Neb., for a rally.

So, he was asked the loaded question, but was more than happy for the opening. The NYTimes version adds this,
“I’m not going to get into the intricacies of their finances,” Mr. Obama told reporters as he flew to a rally in Nebraska. “That’s something that you’ll have to ask them.”

Translation: "I would never say anything bad about the Clinton's, but, please, please, you'd really help if you dug over there."

(I would guess Obama wants this pressure to highlight Bill Clinton's post-White House dealings to make the Clintons look very "connected" to Washington and foreign interests. That's one way he could get into her white "blue collar" vote.)

The Clinton campaign said they would release her records after the primary.

The Clinton campaign's explanation for the loan.

I thought this was a very interesting backstory to the Clinton loan. (Understand that this is the Clinton campaign's version.)

Short version: They were at rough parity through 2007, but Obama's slightly lower overhead (consultants, office supplies, parking?) combined with his incredible January fundraising turned into a big advantage in Super Tuesday TV.

"The campaign faced a strategic decision -- either attempt to match his TV . . . or lose," said a senior Clinton adviser, who spoke about the internal discussions on the condition of anonymity. "I would say given the result of Super Tuesday, it was the right decision."

Not mention of Mark Penn, the reportedly $5 million man. Of course, he may be the source.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Stray thoughts on McCain

1) If McCain has a preference on who he'd like to run against, how much will he try to intervene? Dump oppo research dirt on one or the other? (Echoes my question from last Friday.)

2) McCain tends to do well among Republicans who disapprove of George Bush. Is that a byproduct of support from "moderates" or is that people in the GOP really see McCain as that significantly different from Bush?

3) Does McCain damage his reach to non-GOP independents if he names Mullah Huckabee as his VP?

Picture of the Day - 2

Well, it looks like the plea of poverty has paid off.

New tallies: Obama $7.5 million. Clinton campaign $6.4 million.

And, come to find out, the offer to work without pay was a bit of a show. Does that leak if they don't want it to?

(Hillary Clinton celebrates her wins at her "Super Tuesday" primary election night rally in New York, February 5, 2008. (REUTERS/Jim Young))

Place your own snark

(AP) "The Bush administration foresees a sharp rise in the capture of al-Qaida-linked terrorists in the coming year and is asking for more money to pay for tips that may lead to their arrest or death.

The State Department says there is a high likelihood that several wanted terror suspects will be caught "in the near future" and wants to double the amount — from $6 million to $12 million — it holds in reserve for cash rewards..."

Romney's obituary

Mitt Romney suspended his campaign today at CPAC. Everyone's going to be writing obituaries of what went wrong. Here's mine.

Early last year, the Romney campaign surveyed the Republican field to try and chart a course through the GOP primaries. At that time, Rudy Giuliani was the prohibitive favorite, and the Romney campaign made the very reasonable assumption that his best percentage option would be to end up in a two man race attacking Giuliani among both the economic and social conservative wings of the party.

Admittedly they overestimated his ability to claim the social conservative mantle and left the Huckabee flank open, but his mistake, his very reasonable core mistake, was to believe in Giuliani.

Also, How does this shape up for McCain now? Suddenly, all that opposition is going to flow to Huckabee. I think McCain still wins but he's likely to suffer repeated embarrassing exposures over the right's dissatisfaction with him as the candidate.

(It's not a good sign when the CPAC organizers have to direct the attendees not to boo McCain. Unbelievable.)

And, We shouldn't leave out Romney's positioning for 2012.

Now they're just showing off....

With the news of the Clinton fundraising woes below, the Obama campaign is flashing their fundraising ability.

As of right now, the Obama campaign claims to have raised $7,018,232 online "since the polls closed" Tuesday. (Check the current total.)

The latest Clinton goal is $3 million in 3 days.

(Barack Obama watches a campaign rally video on a journalist laptop while other members of the media look on during his flight from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans Wednesday, Feb 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer))

Robert Gates threatens the future of NATO

Robert Gates who has been sniping at NATO about the need for more troops in Afghanistan for awhile, made another unbelievable statement yesterday before Congress.
"I worry a great deal about the alliance evolving into a two-tiered alliance in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect people's security and others who are not," the Pentagon chief said.

"And I think that it puts a cloud over the future of the alliance if this is to endure and perhaps even get worse," he told a congressional committee.

From Reuters:
"My view is you can't have some allies whose sons and daughters die in combat and other allies who are shielded from that kind of a sacrifice," Gates told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

Let's remember that just three weeks ago, Gates found himself forced to apologize formally and effusively after his comments that the NATO forces "don't know how to do counter-insurgency operations."

This comes just ahead of a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers.

Still 11 months left for the Bush administration to alienate everyone.

Meanwhile, (CBS) Condi Rice makes a surprise visit to Kandahar echoing the call for more NATO troops.

Pressure on Sadr to end ceasefire as dealine approaches

Again, all of this clamor from the Mahdi could be part of a negotiation for the next ceasefire extension, but the rancor from Sadr's rank and file is sounding more and more genuine to me.
Anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his feared Mehdi Army on Thursday to maintain its six-month ceasefire as members of the militia clashed with U.S. and Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad.....

"Any member of the Mehdi Army who conducts violent acts during the ceasefire, the Sadr office declares they will no longer be part of the Mehdi Army," Sadr said in a statement read to Reuters by Ubaidi.

The pressure to end the ceasefire comes from the belief among the Mahdi that the US and Iraqi government are abusing this ceasefire to target Mahdi figures.

(AP) The US raided Sadr City, killing one and arresting 16.

This current ceasefire is scheduled to lapse in late February.


(NYTimes) The US Energy Department is subsidizing Russian nuclear facilities that are aiding the Iranian nuclear program!

(Reuters) According to "diplomats close to the IAEA(?)", Iran is testing a new advanced centrifuge.

(AP) The commander of Guantanamo confirms the existence of "Camp 7," the secret facility within Guantanamo. (Why is the Bush admin dumping all this right now? Admitting waterboarding?)

(NYTimes) The CIA destroyed the "torture tapes" while knowing they were sought in the court case.

(NYTimes) The OSCE is refusing to monitor (and certify) the Russian election because of the conditions placed on it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Clinton already "loaned" her campaign $5 million in January

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson:
Late last month Senator Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million.The loan illustrates Sen. Clinton’s commitment to this effort and to ensuring that our campaign has the resources it needs to compete and win across this nation. We have had one of our best fundraising efforts ever on the web today and our Super Tuesday victories will only help in bringing more support for her candidacy.

Wow. That does not give the sheen of momentum.

Also: Clinton staff working without pay?

And, pushing her website at speeches is all about fundraising.

Clinton is emphasizing that the loan came from "her" money, (not from Bill Clinton's post-White House financial dealings?)

The narrative is getting away from her.

Later: I thought I heard somewhere that that Hallmark channel thing cost her $4 million.

Picture of the Day - 2

(The Rev. Jesse Jackson holds a campaign sign for Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as he watches the Super Tuesday Primary returns at at Obama's election night party Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008, in Chicago.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast))

The spin so far

With no clear winner on the Dem side, I'm trying to watch the spin because I think that is going to create the conventional wisdom and the perception of winner.

My general sense is that the Obama campaign is winning the spin war thus far with the "more states, more delegates" argument backed by the idea of "Obama friendly primaries and better fundraising ahead."

Thus far, the main Clinton point seems to be that they won Massachusetts despite Kennedy, Kerry, and Deval Patrick (pretty weak,) but if this holds up, they may soon be claiming more popular vote. (Yes, I know this ignores the caucuses where Obama was rampant, but popular vote is a powerful argument.)

The thing to watch for now is which spin bits are picked up by the "neutrals," your Chris Matthews/Tim Russert figures and the questions posed by interviewers.

Their presentation will shape the conventional wisdom and hence coverage and the campaign going forward.

(PS. This is a beauty. Clinton Campaign Director Mark Penn claiming Obama is the establishment candidate.

(AP) "Obama sought to claim the permanent underdog's role in the race, saying the New York senator is backed by a "political machine honed over two decades.")

Also, Looking at the next few states, the Clinton campaign is trying to buy time, (Politico) "Her team is girding for trench warfare, telling reporters that the nomination will not be decided until at least the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, if then."

And, the Mark Penn official Clinton spin memo titled "A New Day."

Political bits

Marc Ambinder has the best speculative post about the Clintons' weighing whether to throw their own money into the campaign. (Speculation.)

(viaDrudge) Another good rumor, for CPAC, "According to my source, McCain has prepared a video featuring President Ronald Reagan to make the introduction." (That's alot worse than Gene Kelly selling a Dirt Devil.)

(SacBee) The "private" GOP effort to change California from a "winner take all" state in November has died.

And, (Politico) Don't miss the article on fraud at the NRCC today. It could get ugly right in the middle of the campaign.

Dear Dems, Going to the convention is a very, very bad idea

There seems to be a giddiness and excitement on the Dem side about the possibility that the nomination might not be decided by the convention.

Stop it. That's a horrible idea.

Think about how that would play out, all that fundraising money wasted on each other, giving a Dem candidate only 12 weeks to campaign against a Republican nominee who has been fundraising, organizing, and building a national image for 6 months.

Let's decide this thing by Ohio/Texas on March 4, or, at worst, Pennsylvania in late April, and then come together to defeat the real enemy.

No matter who the candidate is, I want to see them strong for the general, and it's going to take more than a few weeks to reunite, realign, and reenergize behind one candidate when this PRIMARY campaign is over.

If we have to, let's just flip a coin in May, because this battle, today's battle, is far less important than winning the White House.

Picture of the Day

Let's get away from the election for a little bit. (Gonna drop some foreign affairs posts after this one in a little bit.)

Yes, those are 3D glasses.

(President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Iran’s new space center. (AFP))


(Reuters) Condi Rice "mildly chastised" UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad for sitting on the same panel as an Iranian representative at the Davos summit. (Seriously?)

(AP) Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said
U.S. forces are "significantly stressed" by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan while simultaneously trying to stem the tide of violent extremism elsewhere.....

"I am extremely concerned about the toll the current pace of operations is taking on them and on their families, on our equipment and on our ability to respond to crises and contingencies beyond ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

(WaPo) After being such an integral part in "stressing" the US Army, Lt. Gen Odierno is about to get promoted and moved to the Pentagon post where he will now be responsible for the "stressed" army's day to day operations.

(BBC) The Iraqi government is now paying lip service to integrating the local Sunni "concerned citizens" into the security force. (I say lip service, because they're talking about "vetting" each and every one of them, meaning nothing will ever get done.)

(NYTimes) Hamas claims responsibility for the recent blast in Israel.

Tied? .... Freaking Tied?!?!?!?

In a quick non-analytical read, it seems that the news consensus is calling last night a tie although Clinton is shading it. (There are still hundreds of delegates as yet unapportioned.)

My prediction was that Clinton would shade the day only to lose the spin war going forward. Watch how the media characterize the efforts. "Obama from way behind two weeks ago." Phrases like "Clinton hung on...."

That will really matter.

(The storyline going forward appears to be, likely Obama leaning states with a huge Obama money/fundraising advantage. I have no idea if that's accurate, but it's campaign shaping spin.)

Update: NBC is projecting right now that Obama wins more delegates, a tiny +10, but that would affect spin.

As example from the Obama campaign, "Obama wins Super Tuesday by winning more states and more delegates."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Picture of the Day - 4

(Barack Obama walks with his voting ballot at the Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois February 5, 2008. (Reuters/Jason Reed))

Waterboarding confirmed

Not that they're trying to hide this on a busy newsday....
The CIA used a widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding on three suspects captured after the September 11 attacks, CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress on Tuesday."

This means that the administration, to maintain it's "we don't torture" line, either has to redefine waterboarding as not torture, or defend the President's statements with the semantics of the present tense. (He never said we didn't torture.)

Also, beneath the headline item,
He told the committee he opposed limiting the CIA to using interrogation techniques permitted in the U.S. Army Field Manual, which bans waterboarding. CIA interrogators are better trained, and it works with a narrower range of suspects in its interrogations, he said.

And, look at the lengths McConnell goes to to try and deny his previous statement that waterboarding is torture. Unbelievable.

The experts say, not so much

It's a statement to our national security policy establishment that the US has managed to turn Iraq from a country hostile to violent Sunni terrorism into a launching pad for Al Qaeda's regional attacks.
The director of national intelligence said Tuesday he is concerned that al-Qaida in Iraq is shifting its focus to attacks elsewhere in the region....

McConnell also told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the Taliban, once thought to be routed from Afghanistan, has expanded its operations into previously peaceful areas of the west and around the capital of Kabul, despite the death or capture of three top commanders in the last year.

And, let's point out, this isn't from "one bad decision." This is from years of mistakes and oversimplifications.

Later: (NYTimes) "Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, said on Tuesday that Al Qaeda is improving its ability to attack within the United States by recruiting and training new operatives."

Picture of the Day - 3

"I'm sorry, Mr. Romney. You're going to have to put your abortion position in the basket before we let you through....."

(Mitt Romney goes through a security screening on the tarmac of the the airport in St. Petersburg, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008, prior to boarding his charter plane. (AP Photo/LM Otero))

Thoughts and Predictions

It's only been a month since Iowa.

(AP) Super Tuesday weather could snarl vote. (Midwest mostly.)

Polling: At this point, the polling is near worthless. Between the earlier failures in NH, and the reworking of the likely voter modeling to try and reflect the huge turnouts, the polling has turned into garbage. ((Reuters) Obama +13 in California? (SurveyUSA) Clinton +10 in California.) So, take it for granted that it's close and wait and watch.

One of the curious items I'm noticing is that the polling (national, at least) still shows significant numbers of undecideds. Adding that to the margin of error, there's alot of wobble.

Winning: Even after it's all done, the general consensus seems to be that we won't have a clear winner, and that the entire post-Tuesday exercise will be who can spin it best. (Clinton has the harder job, because, as the perceived frontrunner a week ago, the bar has been set higher for her.

Plus, the media seems to be chomping at the bit to write a Clinton obituary.)

Questions: How will the turnout be on the Dem side? Are we looking at general election numbers?

How will the Edwards voters break? The early belief seems to be that they're breaking significantly for Obama, but we won't really know that until tonight/tomorrow.

Do the early results in NY/NJ/Conn/Mass/etc affect the west?

Suggestion: If you're looking for detailed, up to the minute info, the CNN election page has been, by far, the best national results website since the 2004 election.

Advice: You may be better off just going to sleep. (CNN) "Polls close in California at 8 p.m. PT, 11 p.m. on the East Coast." (And there are going to be lots of paper ballots to count!)

(Politicalwire has that handy poll closing time list by state.)

And the prediction? I have been wrong on almost every prediction this year, so, let's just use this as a discussion starter, eh?

I think Clinton shades the day, but has trouble in the spin war going forward.

(Plus, I agree with the Kos idea that the Obama fundraising advantage becomes huge as we look past today.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Not one mention anywhere of the Hallmark event where Clinton bought an hour on the Hallmark network last night for a town hall.

(Hillary Rodham Clinton stands on set at the Tyra Studios in New York City prior to her TV-and-internet broadcast of her 'Voices Across America' Town Hall Monday, Feb. 4, 2008.(AP Photo/Elise Amendola))

The Mahdi ceasefire is in question

Just a quick word on Iraq. Another statement out of the Mahdi camp warning that the Sadrist ceasefire may not be extended.
Influential members within the movement loyal to Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have told him they do not want his Mehdi Army militia to extend a ceasefire when it expires this month, Sadr's spokesman said on Monday.

This could easily be a negotiating ploy, notice that the primary complaint is against government forces, but, because of the ramifications, statements like these need to be taken seriously.

The "deadline" is Feb. 23.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Picture of the Day - McCain joke

When the boss tells a joke....

(Sen. John McCain jokes around on his charter plane the morning after his Florida Republican primary election win, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008. From left, family friend Joe Harper, campaign manager Rick Davis. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Political bits

How significant is it that the one Republican candidate who didn't call for rounding up illegals is the likely GOP candidate? Has the damage already been done by the party?

(Swamp) "Sen. Hillary Clinton teared up this morning at an event at the Yale Child Study Center...." (Take a look at the CNN video. This seems like the media is creating this. Not much there.)

(WaPo) "Angry McCain," the latest Romney attack angle features on the front page of the WaPo.

(WaPo) "One Clinton adviser, granted anonymity in order to speak candidly about the contest, said the campaign is now anticipating it will not be able to reclaim its front-runner status on Tuesday night. Even California, once believed to be firmly in the Clinton column, has now tightened, the adviser said, but Clinton still hopes to carry it." (I think this is talking down expectations.)

(Politico) Obama's camp tries to lower expectations. (Chuck Todd has a more analytical take.)

The end of this WaPo piece looks past Super Tuesday.

And, Has there ever been a major presidential candidate who is as poor on the stump as McCain?

(Regarding the Dem polling, I don't think there can be any argument that there has been an Obama surge tightening it all up, but with the crazy rules on delegate apportionment, the polls, even if accurate, may not reflect what comes out tomorrow.

The two key questions are whether the "likely voter/caucuser" modeling will be accurate in this year of huge turnouts, and how the Edwards voters are breaking. (Looks like Obama?)

So we wait, and we watch. It's really exciting, isn't it?)


President Bush:
I submitted the budget today to Congress -- it's on a laptop notebook, an e-budget. It saves paper, saves trees, saves money. I think it's the first budget submitted electronically.

When you submit a $3.1 trillion dollar budget with your projections showing a $410 billion dollar deficit this year, and $407 billion deficit next year I think focusing your comments on the money saving aspects of electronic submission may be misplaced.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Barack Obama waits onboard his campaign plane in Chicago, Monday, Feb. 4, 2008, prior to departing for a rally in New Jersey. (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast))

(We'll talk about predictions tomorrow.)

Iraq's "Re-Baathification" becomes law

The De-Baathification reform is now official law in Iraq, passing through the presidential council without the vote of the only Sunni there which should tell you something.

Here's my analysis from two weeks ago, but I would like to add this: In order for a former Baath member to be considered for reinstatement, he must subject himself to a "security screening" conducted by the Shia militia dominated Interior Ministry.

Imagine being a Sunni and "inviting" the Badr corps to go poking around in your history, your relationships, and your family, especially since there is an ongoing campaign of retribution and killings targeting former Baath members.

By applying for a job, you would be subjecting everyone you know to the Shia militias.

What is this?

This Independent story seems slanted, but the importance to my reading is that the British are secretly negotiating with the Taleban in Helmand around the Karzai government in order to build a sympathetic militia, similar to the US efforts in Iraq.

I think it's also telling of Karzai's weakness that his only response is to publicize this. There's really nothing else he can do.

(And what does it say that the effort is no longer to build the Afghani forces?)

Also, despite claims by a NATO spokesman that the Taleban is "contained," McClatchy has an update,
Islamic insurgents are expanding their numbers and reach in Afghanistan and Pakistan, spreading violence and disarray over a vast cross-border zone where al Qaida has rebuilt the sanctuary it lost when the United States invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.

There is little in the short term that the Bush administration or its allies can do to halt the bloodshed, which is spreading toward Pakistan's heartland and threatening to destabilize the U.S.-backed governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Picture of the Day

Former Iraq travel buddies gather for a reunion.

(John McCain watches the Super Bowl in his hotel lobby bar with Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey Graham in Boston, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

In the background, people screaming......

For some reason while I was popping through the wire services this morning, I was struck by a perceptual shift that small terror bombings are becoming so commonplace as to not even warrant mention. 6 soldiers killed in Pakistan, 12 in Sri Lanka, and a civilian in Israel.

Three fatality terror bombings, and it's no more than background noise. That's where we are now.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Because it was there...

Because they could.
Israel did not have a clear idea of the nature of the facility it targeted in Syria in September 2007, US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh posits in a New Yorker article scheduled to be published next week.....

Hersh said that the primary objective of the bombing was to send a forceful message to Iran.

Later: I don't know about the rest of the allegations here, but Rawstory does have another clip from the article.
Hersh writes in that article, "Whatever was under construction, with North Korean help, it apparently had little to do with agriculture -- or with nuclear reactors -- but much to do with Syria's defense posture, and its military relationship with North Korea. And that, perhaps, was enough to silence the Syrian government after the September 6th bombing."

Picture of the Day

As I noted below, the Obama crowds have been huge over the past two days.

16,000+ in Boise, 20,000 in Minneapolis yesterday, 20,000 in St. Louis, and this crowd in Delaware today.

(A huge crowd gathers in Rodney Square for Barack Obama in Wilmington, Del., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast))

Early voting

I may mention this again tomorrow in a predictions post, but I kinda want to put early voting into the discussion.

Alot of the states involved in Tuesday's primaries allowed various forms of early voting which basically boils down to two main groups: 1) Absentee voting where a decision is made several weeks or more before the election, and 2) The newer early voting where limited polling stations are open two weeks or so before the primary for people to cast votes.

The Clinton campaign put alot of early effort into getting their targeted voters to cast early, locking them in. So, as you see the polls closing up in states like California, keep in mind that there are vast numbers of these early voters that may not break along this late "Obama's closing" polling trend.

Of course, they could also represent the Clinton base who wouldn't be changing their mind anyway.

Just putting it out there.

Later: Josh Marshall makes a decent counterargument.

Clinton compares Obama to the current president.

She's down to this?
On her airplane with reporters Clinton likened Obama to the widely unpopular President George W. Bush, stating that her rival was an untested neophyte who would be a "leap of faith" for voters.

"We cannot afford to elect someone as we did with George Bush and then be somewhat surprised by the decisions that are made," she said.

Clinton's closing argument appears to be that voting for Obama is a "leap of faith," and that it's better to elect her as the known quantity. She's just using the Bush comparison as "the hook" to get this out there, but still...... comparison to George Bush?

Next she'll be accusing Obama of having had a black baby.

You gotta watch this

Take the time. It's worth it.


(AFP) US Qaeda strategy fatally flawed: analysts

(LATimes) The US and Pakistan are still trying to hide who fired the missile that killed Libbi on Pakistani soil.

(Reuters) A second day of fighting in Chad.

The NYTimes has a story on Sunni discontent with the deBaathification law.

The WaPo outlines "three wars" the US is fighting in Iraq, Al Qaeda, local Sunni, Shia militia. (These aren't nearly as important to the outcome as the three wars the Iraqis are fighting.)

(AP) Egypt and Hamas cooperate to close the Gaza border.

Political bits - Sunday

(MikeAllen) The Grateful Dead (or what remains of them) will reunite for a Feb 4. concert supporting Obama. (Is that old enough and white enough for you, Tom?)

(AFP) "I assume I will get the nomination of our party," McCain told reporters, insisting he was not taking anything for granted. "I assume that unifying our party is a very critical item ... and I'm confident I can do that."

(CNN) RFK's widow, Ethel Kennedy, comes out for Obama.

(AP) Romney wins Maine (and nobody seems to care....)

(FirstRead) Obama gets 20,000 in St. Louis after 16,000+ in Boise (Boise!) and 20,000 in Minneapolis yesterday.

(FirstRead) Obama meanwhile seems to be trying to blunt Clinton's attacks over his healthcare plan by adding the line, caring for America's children is "a universal responsibility."

(And, I'd do more Clinton, but there doesn't seem to be as much news coming out of her campaign. The media is selling Obama.)